A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Christmas had certainly come to town. Snow had piled up and covered all houses, shops, trees. Snow was everywhere: under your feet, above your head, before your eyes. Everything was so white and innocent. Ugliness had given way to beauty. One almost imagined Snow White and the seven dwarves would turn up out of the crisp air and come up to you for a chat.
The chimneys of houses smoked pleasant wisps of burnt coal and wood. You felt cozy just watching them. The shop windows were decorated with garlands and Christmas baubles and trinkets. The people wore thick warm clothes moving slowly on the well-trodden pavement tracks left by other people come and gone earlier. It was a white Christmas, the one we wish to see and enjoy and no doubt everybody was enjoying it. Little children threw squibs surprisingly in front of or behind passers-by causing the latter to undertake startled sideways jumps. Some of the people didn’t stop at that but turned around and scolded or abused the children calling them brats. Others didn’t stop at that either and tried to chase the mischievous imps but to no avail.
As night was coming down on the town dusk enveloped all and made the snow emanate a soft muffled white light. It was especially impressive under the street lampposts where it sparkled in myriads of multifaceted crystals.
People hardly thought of this, however. The Christmas trees awaited them in their homes to be trimmed and decorated. Their families would also be there to smile and beam at one another, exchange presents and say “Merry Christmas”. TV programs would pour forth greetings from someone to someone else announcing to the world that someone loved someone else so that the latter would have no doubts about it. And the receivers of the greetings did have no doubts. They would be moved to tears and hug the senders of the greetings and start crying and say that that was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to them. They would say they would never forget that moment and you could believe them as well because then they would go to the overloaded Christmas table and drink their fill of every liquor available at the market. They would also eat as much as they could take and maybe a little more and cause a traffic jam of emergencies in the town hospitals. But that would be the next day. At Christmas Eve everyone could do what he or she wished and make Christmas an unforgettable (with accidental lapses of memory) day.
There could be heard cries and shouts, and screams in the air as the heat was gaining momentum. Pistols popped off ripping the night air through and through.
The apartment buildings were all alit with hundreds of lights from the apartment boxes in which merriment and revelry were competing for no end but total senselessness.
In one of the thousands of apartment-buildings an attic window on the top floor was strangely unsharing in the all pervading merry mood. A thin almost emaciated girl was shaking with cold, looking out the window, into the night. Her hair fell loose down her shoulders. Her little face was haggard and strangely drawn. Her eyes looked hollow and dry like wells dried up in the summer. She had her hands on the windowpane so glued to it that they looked almost grown there. She was with her knees on a small bed at the window. She wore an old brown thick woolen dress and completely dissolved into the darkness in the room. Peter Pan would have noticed her if he had chosen to fly by this window but tonight he was busy trimming a Christmas tree in the Never Never Land. He probably would have forgotten it was Christmas had it not been for Tinker Bell who had screamed the news in his ear this morning flitting by, almost depriving him of hearing. Santa Claus was also busy delivering presents, putting them it the stockings left in the right place beforehand.
The girl was shivering and her little teeth chattered in the little mouth. It was cold in the room. She hadn’t been able to pay the electricity bill for November and was now feeling the consequences of this. She could not explain that she was sick and needed warmth. They would hardly have listened. They could have told her that there were homes with little children and babies without electricity but it was only normal that the electrical supply should be turned off. No one could live on credit. What if one could never pay off. The state simply could not allow it.
She had had to leave home. When the symptoms became all too clear and after she had herself tested there could be no doubts as to the origin of her plight. She was waning away and had to come clean and tell her parents about it.
She often thought about it, plunging into an endless vortex of close-ups of the times he stroked her body arousing her and bringing out the woman in her, of how they were making love, of the consummation they achieved. Then she felt so happy, so completed, accomplished, when the ocean of his loving flowed and filled her and they were one. She would like to keep these fragments of happiness. She often wondered if they had ever made a complete picture. But even if they hadn’t that didn’t make them any less dear to her. He was her first and obviously last lover. She had wanted to do it with someone she loved and that’s what she had done. She loved him for giving her that tenderness and caress she was now so terribly missing. He had left this world only a month ago. She had been with him at his deathbed. She had cried endlessly after his sad eyes closed for the last time and his white hand became cold in hers. She had asked him if he loved her. He had only smiled with a wan smile. His chapped lips had parted and probably made for some sort of confession that never came out anyway. That was of small significance now. Nothing mattered much. She had to live out her days. How many were they? That did not matter much, either. After she was absolutely sure she had AIDS she had had to adapt herself to this fact. She had tried to find a new meaning in life and had failed. Life was meaningless then. The only thing that made it meaningful was caring for someone, for something. Now there was nothing. With him the last object of care had gone. She did not have the heart to shelter a homeless cat or a dog for the poor animal would be equally miserable with her and maybe even worse off.
She shuddered all over as a violent fit of cough shook her and snapped her out of the trance she had fallen in.
Large drops of sweat stood out on her forehead. Her body was feverish and cold. She curled up on the bed reflexively to stifle the cough.
The news that she was well into the fourth stage of the ruthless disease had been broken to her at the clinic for venereal diseases in town only two days ago. That was inevitable, of course. The feeling of watching yourself dying, knowing what new diseases you were going to develop was unique in itself. It could make you philosophical if you were not before.
She was freezing here. She did not eat much. She had been able to work until a month ago. Now that was out of the question. Her face with sunken cheeks and bulging jaws and hollow sockets at the bottom of which two big eyes gleamed, had given many a customer the creeps at the bookshop where she used to work. Besides, the quickly developing pneumonia had had her doubling up with coughing fits only too often to be unobserved.
She slowly sat up and looked out the window again. Millions of lights shimmered in the dark outside. Cars hooted. Drunk people shouted at the top of their drunken voices. Somewhere, not far, probably in the same apartment building, someone was throwing his guts up on his own porch due to bad alcohol. Ambulances wailed wildly down the boulevard, somewhere far off they were still shooting in the air, or in someone. You never knew. It was the whitest Christmas in years. You could really tell that Christmas had finally come to town.
April, 15th 2000
© Hristo Boev, 2000